Tuesday, April 17, 2012

A Season of Change

Understatement: We've had an eventful transition to Portland.

We knew the transition would be interesting with the work to do on the house, and I think we've been taking it all in stride, but I realized just how crazy things have been when I found myself texting Sara:
"Sorry we didn't call you back last night. The new furnace broke, Scott was puking, and the kids were asking to hug the repair man goodnight." Just another run of the mill evening in the Maxwell House!

I have been feeling overwhelmed by the thought of trying to get up to date on our recent activities, so a string of random updates will have to do.

The good news is that we have new carpet, new appliances, and fresh paint on most of our walls.  Also, next year we won't have to buy a new furnace.  Odd happenings with the house have included:

- Pondering why the prior owners stripped the house of various light fixtures, all toilet paper holders, and the oven racks (?!?!) and yet left all 12 attachments for the central vac system.
- The HVAC tech inspecting our heat pump system only to proclaim, "I figured out your problem. You have a heat pump thermostat, but you don't have a heat pump." An hour later he also notified me our 25 year old furnace was cracked and had to be shut down.
- Realizing that most of our walls were a near match to the "color" of primer.  Not anymore!
- Wondering why people so opposed to color in 90% of the house would paint the TV room two shades of bright pink/orange to match navy/turquoise window coverings.
- Spending our first month without use of the oven or microwave.  Certainly a first world problem, but it really stymied me when we couldn't even take n' bake pizza.
- Marveling at the loveliness of hexagon shaped sinks.
- Having an extra fridge rotating around various rooms of our house. Our garage fridge from Bend was a lifesaver our first month here before we got our appliances. It was slated to slide perfectly into a space in the garage. A space that quickly got consumed by the new, wider, furnace. Plan B?

While it sounds like a never ending project, which will be true for a while, we are loving other aspects of the house - the giant playroom, the big backyard, good storage spaces, and a layout that seems to be fitting nicely with our daily rhythm.  In the end, those are the things that matter. Paint and ugly fixtures can all be changed over time.

We were lucky enough to move to Portland just in time to experience the wettest March on record.  As a stormwater engineer, this is wonderful for my career, but pretty brutal on our high dessert psyche.  We spent a good deal of time marveling at the lake that consumed much of our backyard for our first weeks in the house. Thankfully these few dry days have helped us avoid being a headline: "Drainage Engineer Buys Flooding House." We did lose two cedar trees in a late march snow and I've worn my raincoat more in the last month than I did in the last 5 years, but six years in the high desert didn't completely override our Seattle webbed feet.  

Our kids are another story.  Owen hates his raincoat, refuses to wear rain boots, and is really frustrated that he can't spend his days outside.  We keep telling him spring and summer are coming, but I knew we were going a little stir crazy when we got a brief hour of midday sun and my kids whipped out the deck chairs, stripped down, and played in the SNOW STILL MELTING ON OUR DECK.

Needless to say, we have resorted to some unusual tactics to manage the behavior challenges that come with this time of transition and limited opportunities for outside/big muscle play.  After several weeks of what felt like an endless battle trying to keep Owen in line, avoid scenes from WWF/Fight Club, and dealing with meltdowns right and left, we sat down one morning and wrote down some basic "Behavior Rules."  I decided to just pick a few behaviors to focus on, and believe me, for several days, it felt like every other sentence out of my mouth was, "remember our behavior rules."

Owen's list: Give People Space, Use Polite Words, Stay at the Table While Eating, Listen to Mom and Dad, Happy Attitude!
Josh's list: Use your Words, Say Please and Thank You, Listen to Mom and Dad, Stay in your Seat When Eating, Hapy Attitude!
Mom's list - yes, I needed one too: No Yelling, Say Please and Thank You, Do What is On the List, Happy Attitude!

Notice how I sneak in  a rule for me that really focuses on getting the kids in line?  "Do what is on the list" refers to sticking to my to do list or the daily plan, which the kids and I talk about every morning.  By having that be one of my rules, it seems to have helped to combat the constant protests whining I was encountering whenever we needed to run an errand or tackle a project around the house.  

Actually, those lists went up about a month ago, and I'm happy to report that they didn't make the transition to the new fridge when it was installed. Seems like things are looking up!

I'm also pleased to report that the speech progress that Josh was making before we moved seems to have continued through the transition. In fact, they hired a new teacher for their daycare a few weeks ago, and the FIRST comment she made to me when I picked up the kids on her first day was, "Man, that Josh, he certainly has a lot to say, doesn't he?"  Not bad for a kid who was barely saying single words 6 months ago!

Funniest quote of the day from Owen: "A manatee? I know about manatees. They turn into mermaids." ??what??  "Yes, see their life cycle goes from baby manatee to adult manatee to mermaid!  Or merman... or mer-girl... or mer-boy."